impeachment proceedings

OK, with the current situation there’ll be inevitable interest in impeachment of the president and/or vice president of the United States.  Here is Kirk’s Quick Guide to the process.  For details and quibbles, seek out an expert in constitutional law.

1) Any member of the house may present articles of impeachment before the House.  Just like any bill, it gets voted upon. These articles can come after a lot of investigation and be voted upon immediately, but based on past history the next thing that’ll happen is that they’ll go into a special committee for examination and review.  If the committee brings them out for house consideration, a vote is taken.  If the House approves the Articles of Impeachment by a simple majority (in other words, of congressmen present and voting – miss the vote, too bad), the target of the articles is impeached.  Broadly speaking, the Articles of Impeachment are analogous to an indictment returned from a Grand Jury.

2) If the impeached individuals include certain federal officers, the Senate tries the indictment, er, impeachment.  If the impeached officer is the president of the United States, it is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (currently CJ Alito) who presides.  If it’s anyone else, the Vice President of the United States presides.  Yes, BY THE RULES he can preside as chief judge over his own trial.  The constitution provides for the president pro tempore of the Senate to act in this role if the VP is unable or unwilling to do so.  That would probably be Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) for the next two years.

The ONLY sentences the Senate can impose are:

  1. Removal from office;
  2. Disqualification of eligibility to occupy other US offices;
  3. Disqualification (elimination) of trust and profit (Federal pay and benefits, basically).

One political comment.  If the VP were to preside at his own trial, it’s possible he could avoid maximum penalties.  On the other hand, the sheer absurdity would undoubtedly taint (politically) him, his party, and anybody who voted to NOT convict.  That is, a certain end to political careers.  This would make conviction MORE likely, in my opinion.


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